Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Artist

Up until today I have only even see three films more than once at the cinema; Titanic (don’t judge me, it was very difficult for an eleven year old to see boobs in a pre internet age), Slumdog millionaire and Senna. The Artist is the forth.

The Artist invites us back to a time where cinema was something that one wore their best suit for and applauded at the mere mention of a stars name; a world before jumbo popcorn and cheesy nachos where cinema and its projection were an art form. The film draws you into the world of George Valentin, a silent movie star at the height of his powers. We join Valentin, who is played superbly by Jean Dujardin, as he is back stage awaiting the response to his latest picture. It is a huge success and he enjoys the crowd’s adulation after the curtain has closed. Outside, while speaking to the press, Valentin has an accidental encounter with a beautiful young woman called Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo. The film charts the rise of Miller’s career as an actress in the talkies in contrast to the free-fall of Valentin as he is stuck in a world with talking movies which he doesn’t want any part of.

I absolutely adored it when I first saw it about a month ago and found it even more enjoyable the second time around. I was able to spot the nuances that help to make the film one of my all time favourites. I could hear subtle changes in the music when a look was given and even a ‘plink’ when one character blinked. I was able to appreciate the beautiful framing of every shot and the attention to detail in each scene. I could see how a chair was placed in just such a way that it split the frame in half, showing us two characters separate emotions that, though sat very close, were worlds apart.

The use of shadow in 1922s Nosferatu
Although I’m no expert on silent cinema, I believe I have seen more silent movies that most young people, count Charlie Chaplin as my favourite film maker and Keaton’s Electric House and Hawks’ Scarface amongst my favourite films. I felt that the film totally lived up to what was great about the best silent movies. The score, so integral in a film without dialogue was perfect. It captured the mood of each scene, let us into the minds of the characters and also updated with the films progression from 1927 to 1932. The use of mirrors and shadows was reminiscent of German expressionism and Film Noir and fitted perfectly with the tone of the movie.  The script was also brilliant. While it wasn’t spoken, what you could lip read; tell in body language and read on title cards was delightful and wonderfully written. I also noticed on my second viewing the subtle uses of words like ‘talk’ and ‘silent’ in important scenes, often having nothing to do with the lead characters refusal to speak on film.

The acting of both leads was sublime. It is no wonder that both have been nominated for Oscars. Dujardin looks every inch the silent movie star. He has the face, smile and demeanour down to a tee. He has the look of Douglas Fairbanks and the confidence and swagger of Maurice Chevalier. He is absolutely wonderful in the film and I expect him to be named Best Actor later this month. Bejo is just stunning. Her beauty and grace have not been matched on screen in many years and she looks as though she has walked straight into the film from 1929. I have a huge crush, though more on her feisty yet sweet and caring character than the actress herself.

The Artist has been nominated for Best Sound as the BAFTAS, along with 11 other nominations. It may seem odd for a silent movie to be nominated for sound but I believe it should win in this category. What little ‘sound’ there is is perfectly timed and placed. A scene featuring a glass deserves the award just on its own.

It would have been easy to make a modern day silent movie by just filming in black and white and adding old swing style music to it but The Artist cuts no corners in its quest for authenticity. It is a delightful, masterpiece that will leave you tap dancing all the way home.


If you liked The Artist then try OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies from director Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.


  1. I couldn't agree more. Beautiful film. Lovely review.

  2. Great film. Nice review.

  3. Yes, I liked The Artist a lot, too. I guess constraints (like no sound) stimulate creativity. I think the movie is stunningly creative, I especially remember the scene when sound enters the frame :)